Candace Ganger

Why I Encourage Daddy-Daughter Dates

Between work and school schedules, it's usually difficult to spend one-on-one time with each of my two children. At different ages and genders, they're experiencing varying degrees of, well, different. My partner in particular struggles to connect with both children — more so our daughter. This is why I encourage daddy-daughter dates and won't apologize for it. I've seen a lot written about the cons and while I see and agree with a lot of the points made, I'm strictly referring to our situation (because every family and parental makeup is different).

Let me first be clear: I don't necessarily agree with romanticizing the time spent together because to me, "dating" your child can come off as "creepy" and may give off the opposite ideals of what we're trying to instill (independence, feminism, and equality). It comes down to my husband and daughter spending that time and regardless of whatever label is slapped on it. I'm also sensitive to the fact that not all children have a hetero house. Some have two mothers. Some have two fathers. Some only have one parent or live with other family members. No family, to me, is less than because of differing dynamics. Love is love and I get how complicated it is to narrow this father/daughter "date" idea down to the simple idea of spending quality time. Because, in general, it's not. I also wish the places that hold such events would promote such as a gender neutral evening, so no one feels left out, but in our town in particular, it's considered a "father/daughter date night," so for brevity, that's how I'll condense my argument: from my point-of-view.

My daughter was an only child for five years before her little brother came into the world to muck things up. In that time, she grew close to her father, my husband, and partner in life. She's very much his spitting image in nearly every way that contradicts me (go figure) and I can tell already how much she wants and craves his attention and acceptance because he's the one who's gone most of the time. This subject (of father daughter relationships) always hits far too close to home for me so I may be over-simplifying for the sake of coming to grips with my own experiences (although I'm trying to be objective).

Growing up, I didn't have the best relationship with my dad. He and my mom divorced when I was 7 after living through their emotionally and physically destructive marriage. When they parted and my younger brother and I had to spend time with him on the weekends, I don't remember a lot of happy. It's taken my whole life to remedy the damage suffered. Then, around the age my daughter is now, I discovered I had a biological father I'd never been allowed to know. This piece of the puzzle sent me on an infinite journey of "where do I belong?" So along with these facts, I know how important that relationship with your parents is — the opposite sex parent, if you have one, because the dynamics are sometimes different. While every situation is certainly varied (I can't say that enough), I trace my lack of confidence, worth, self-esteem, and love of self back to these two fathers. And actually, their roles impacted every relationship I've ever had, both directly and indirectly.

Having said all that, regardless of differing opinions on what a daddy-daughter "date" means to some, or how destructive it can be to diminish all the other parent does as an aside from, or how much damage these dates can cause if time is spent recreating an actual romantic date with dressing up and flowers (etc.), I want my daughter to have a bond with her father in ways I missed out on. I don't agree with or condone patriarchal superiority or teaching her to be submissive or anything of the like. I do want her to know she can do and be anything with, or without, a man — or woman — in her life. However, because my daughter does have an opposite sex parent in the house whom she wants to spend quality time with, I don't think it's a bad thing to hang out together and without me and her brother.

Here are some of the reasons I think, for us, the daddy-daughter "date" (or however you want to refer to it) is important. Though, we don't call it a "date" here. It's just "time together" just as I do the same with her, and her brother because while I like the sentiment, I'm not fond of the creep-tastic word as it does romanticize a situation that should be anything but.

It Gives Her Time Away She Might Not Otherwise Have

Having a little brother in the house means my daughter is constantly sharing her space, whether she wants to or not. I haven't been as good as I should be about planning special alone time for she and I (and I'm trying to be better), because working from home make me feel like we're always together! When my partner is home (finally), taking our daughter out, alone, is one way for her to take a break from all the chaos.

She's getting older which means this time isn't optional. As she learns to navigate so many things, having a quiet dinner out may be all she needs to come back a little more at peace with who she is (again, something I struggled with). And likewise, her father misses out on a lot while at work so it gives him the chance to catch up on everything going on in her life. I want to raise a strong girl, confident in ll she is. I don't think spending dedicated alone time with a parent is anything but that. Time.

She Gets To Teach Her Father A Thing Or Two

My daughter isn't interested in anything traditional. Already, she wants to work to earn money to buy her own things, prefers to call the shots in just about everything, and uses her time with her dad to show him what she's currently interested in. Recently, it's become dancing and politics! She's multifaceted and can't be boxed in. I so love this about her. Spending that time with her father is merely the chance for him to see all the beautiful things I see on a daily basis.

She Will Learn More About Herself

Along with teaching her father the newest karate moves and pop song lyrics, their "dates" give her the chance to figure out what she wants and doesn't want in life. She may decide she doesn't like a man paying for her food or holding the door open. She may discover she'd prefer to go out alone or that she'd much rather grow up to marry a woman or never get married. Just as she traded princess dressed for Converse sneakers and dark nail polish, getting away from home with her dad helps her navigate all the things she likes and doesn't like. It's her life and we're just here to nurture it so she'll find the happiness we hope for her.

It Teaches Independence

Jus as it gives her time away, it also encourages independence. We don't live in a house where gender conformity exists. While I think this daddy-daughter scenario can be detrimental if amplifying the wrong messages, we aim to teach her all the ways she can do things for herself. Already an independent young lady, I've witnessed her breaking off on her own lately and honestly, it's scary. Her dad and I aren't here to take that independence, and if anything, we want this time they spend together to encourage it. Whether it's by letting her order her own food or asking she make all the plans, we hope to show her she can take charge.

She Won't Be Little Forever

When I think back to ten years ago when I held her in my arms, I get misty-eyed. The time has gone so fast, I wish I could freeze moments and live in them forever. With the time that's gone, she's morphing, almost daily, from a child to a young woman. Her father and I don't want to miss out on getting to know her through the challenging pre-pubescent years because I know how easy it is for her to turn away from us, just as I did growing up.

Our goal as progressive, compassionate parents is to show our daughter we're here, no matter what, and we love her, unconditionally. That's really what it comes down to. No matter what your opinion on the daddy-daughter "date," (and I still hate that word and its implication), all we're trying to do is give her the time and respect she deserves. No matter the outcome, we're just doing the best we can with what we know how to do, always hoping for the best. Isn't that what parenting is all about?